Skip To Main Content
Gardening with Kindergarteners
  • Formation
  • Nature
Elizabeth Lewis

Every year when I meet with Mrs. Gilbert, our Head of School, for our end of year meeting, she asks what I would like to teach next year. I always request to teach the kindergarteners in garden. Teaching kindergarteners in the garden is one of my favorite classes. I love watching the wonder and awe that our young students have in the natural world. After six years of teaching gardening, I have designed a way to teach the littles in an outdoor classroom. I have drawn some ideas from Montessori practical skills, some from my training in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and some things I have learned that work well in our unique garden setting. I have divided each class into four parts:


Part One: Circle Time 

Because gardening class with kindergartens is always first period, we always start out at circle time with songs. I like to teach them simple songs that they can sing while they are gardening. The two we learned this semester are the Jesus Prayer and Country Life. The Jesus Prayer is a song I heard from a CD put out by a women's monastery. It is very simple: you repeat “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” over and over again. This song is very comforting and easy to remember. I also use it to call the students in at the end of class. When they hear me singing it, they know it is time to put their tools away and come line up. The second song we learned this year is Country Life. We only learned the chorus: “I like to rise when the sun she rises early in the morning and I like to hear them small birds singing merrily upon the laylem and hurrah for the life of a country boy and to ramble in the new mowed hay.” This one is more fun and energetic. We sing this one on our way walking out to their next class.  

Once we have sung songs, we line up to go outside to the garden.  


Part Two: Greetings and Observations

On our way out to the garden we pass a sycamore and a pecan trees. Whenever we pass a tree, we say good morning to this tree. As we stop and say good morning, I ask, “Do you notice anything about the tree?” and they can answer however they like. Often it is “the leaves are green” or “I see a bug.” This pausing and observing helps them to be aware of their surroundings, to notice the seasons changing, to feel closer to trees that they may pass by every day of their lives. This is the moment when we begin to attend to nature.  

Once we get to the entrance of the garden, I stop and ask them one by one. I ask, “(student's name), are you ready to enter the garden?” If they say no, then they just go to the back of the line and wait for another few moments. When they say yes, I ask them to find a spot around the pond. This moment when I look into their face and say their name is a very special moment for me as a teacher. I can slow down my thoughts about plans and classes and just look and see how my students are doing each day. Sometimes they are fidgety, silly, or sad, and I might not notice it until this moment in class - even though, by this time, they have been with me for at least thirty minutes. Before this moment, I looked at them as a whole entity. But when I take the time one at a time to really see them, the rest of the class period becomes somehow different. This is when I begin to attend to students as individuals, as God intended. 

When we have all arrived at the pond, I ask, “What do you notice around the pond?” Again, we are honing our observations skills. Sometimes they say the same things time after time like “I see water.” or “I see flowers.” but sometimes they amaze me by noticing little creatures or slight changes in the garden I did not think they would notice. For example, one student went on a lengthy explanation about why there were no bees at the flowers this morning because it was colder than other mornings.  


Part Three: Student Work

This is the part of the class where I teach the students to do certain works in the garden. Once they have learned a work then they may do it for as long as they would like, even for the whole class period. We always learn how to use scissors first because it is easy to teach them all together and we have enough scissors for the whole class to use at once. After I have taught them scissors, I teach them how to use a magnifying glass, how to water plants, how to plant seeds, how to use a nature journal, how to pull a weed, how to watch a chicken, what to feed a chicken, and how to watch the sheep.

Each of these lessons, I try to teach them only one or two students at a time; This way they can see what I am doing, and they are getting individual attention throughout the semester. Again, I am attending to the student as a child of God. I make eye contact. I face my body towards them. I listen carefully to their observations.

Another intentional part of the works is that there is a limited number of materials. Only four students can do nature journals at a time, only two students can watch the chickens at a time, and there are only so many seeds packets they can use during the class. If a tool or work is not available when they want it, they must choose a different tool or work. Sometimes during this part of the class, I have taught the students several jobs  and they just to need to choose one and then my job is just to watch them. They might all be working on their own works, and it is my job to not interrupt them. I have given them the tools to observe and enjoy the garden and they do not always need my input. Sometimes a student wants to show me something they find, like a beautiful beetle or holes in a leaf, but then they want to be left alone to continue exploring. Sometimes it is hard for me to let children do this. For example, there was one student this semester who only wanted to work with scissors. I kept trying to teach him to do other works and sometimes he would let me show him and other times he would say "no, thank you." Either way, he would go back to using scissors to cut leaves or flowers or just old stems. Part of me kept worrying “oh, but he needs to do other work" - but really, he does not. I need to let him do the work that his little soul and brain need to do. Snip, snip, snip. 


Part Four: Clean Up, Line Up

“Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” I sing, wait, and listen.

I sing it again. Slowly the students begin to sing with me as they make their way to the shed to put their tools away. Eventually, they end up in line behind me and we make our way to their next class singing, “I like to rise when the sun she rises early in the morning....” 



This is not what one might think of as a traditional classroom. We sing, we say good morning to trees, we observe God’s creation. The amount of time I speak in the class is exceedingly minor compared to the amount of time I do watching and listening. But this class speaks to the needs of a five-year-old's soul. It gives them time to observe God’s creation and time to work on their own, independently from what I think they should be doing. It teaches them compassion, love for nature, and love for God: the true goal of every class at TSCS.